(From the soon-to-be-published novel Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)
The southern tour kicked off in the town of Senatobia, Mississippi two nights later. The sellout crowd cheered all through Teddy’s act. He sang raucous, upbeat tunes like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “Hard Luck Blues”. Female hearts fluttered as he whispered lyrics to sexy ballads like “Harbor Lights.” Even the male members of the audience tapped their feet to “Blue Moon of Kentucky” or the song that had become his signature tune, “Move it on Over”.
More of the same followed in Sardis and Batesville. In the larger city of Tupelo, Teddy appeared at a local drive-in theater. He sang from the roof of the refreshment stand between showings of a double feature. A large crowd surrounded the building. Others watched and listened from inside their cars. They showed their appreciation by blowing their horns and flashing their headlights in a combination of sight and sound that delayed the start of the feature attraction for almost an hour.
The entire tour proved to be one success after another. Then, some miles south of Meridian they came to the town of Castlehurst.
Often, the local promoter would be on hand to meet them when they arrived. This time, the person waiting didn’t appear happy when Cap got off the bus.
“Mr. Stewart?” The slim, middle-aged man in a rumpled suit stepped forward to introduce himself. “My name is Earl Wellington. We’ve spoken over the phone.”
Cap recognized the name and shook his hand. “Why, sure Mr. Wellington, right nice of you to come out to meet us.”
“Mr. Stewart, I’m real sorry to have to tell you this but there seems to be a problem with the show tonight.”
Before he could say more, their attention was drawn to a siren from a dark sedan with Sheriff’s markings that came to a stop not far from where they stood. A scrawny gent in an ill fitting tan uniform got out of the car and approached them.
“Sheriff Tyler,” Wellington addressed the law officer with both respect and fear.
“Earl.” The Sheriff nodded a greeting. He looked passed the two adults. Teddy and his band were off the bus, standing in the street. The Sheriff’s gaze was from friendly.
“Sheriff, this here’s Cap Stewart.
“Afternoon, Sheriff.” Cap smiled through his growing sense of anxiety. He extended his hand to the official who shook it with little enthusiasm, “Mr. Wellington was just telling me there might be some problem with the show we’re doing here tonight?”
The Sheriff’s response was terse, almost venom-like. “Ain’t no ‘might be’ about it. The show’s cancelled.”
“Then, just what is the problem?”
“News travels fast in these parts. We’ve been hearing that your boy there is fond of singing that jungle music the coons like so much. That may be okay in some places, but here in Castlehurst, we’re decent church-going folks. We don’t want our young people exposed to that kind of vile trash even if it is a white boy singing it.”
“But Sheriff, young people everywhere love Teddy’s music.”
“We don’t give a rat’s ass about everywhere. We won’t stand for it here.”
“But I have a contract…”
“Mr. Wellington here realizes he made an honest mistake…didn’t know what he was getting into when he booked your show. You’re both reasonable businessmen so I expect you can resolve this thing to your mutual benefit.
“Would you have any objection to us at least spending the night here before we continue on?” Cap asked.
“You’re more than welcome to enjoy our hospitality. But I wouldn’t give much thought to continuing on. You see, I’ve been in touch with some of the other places you plan on playing, they feel the same way about things as we do. They don’t want you either.”
Cap’s heart pounded and the blood rose to his cheeks. If he lost control and lashed out at this arrogant bigot he’d only be buying trouble for his entire troupe.
“Sheriff, I have solid commitments all the way down to New Orleans.”
“Suit yourself, but it’s a long way to the Louisiana state line. Some of these country roads can be real treacherous, lots of wrecks, rollovers and such. Best advice I can give you is come mornin’, you turn this here safari of yours around and head on back the way you came.”
Rock and Roll Quote of the Day: "How I'd like to look, inside that little book. The one that holds the lock and key. And know the boy that you dream of,the boy whose in your diary." From: The Diary by: Little Anthony and the Imperials.